The Story of U-864

From The Times of London
December 19, 2006

Toxic timebomb surfaces 60 years after U-boat lost duel to the death

Submarine sunk on secret mission Cargo of mercury is slowly corroding

Sixty-one years ago a U-864 slipped out of Kiel, sent by Hitler on a secret voyage to Japan. The cargo manifest lists 1,857 steel cannisters filled with mercury made up of advanced Messerschmitt jet engine parts, for use in Japanese aircraft.

She never reached her destination. Alerted by radio decrypts, a British submarine was in position and sank U-864 off of Norway. This is the only known case of one submarine sinking another in World War Two while both were submerged.

The wreck now lies in 152 metres (500ft) beneath North Sea waters off the Norwegian coast, and contains 65 tons of mercury in 1,857 corroding canisters. The mercury has begun to leak. The Norwegian government has declared an environmental emergency over this. It is a toxic timebomb, and today the Norwegian Government will announce plans to entomb it in a sarcophagus 12 metres thick.

“The potential for pollution is unlike anything we have seen in Norwegian history,” said Ane Eide Kjaeras, spokeswoman for the Norwegian Coastal Administration…

You can find out more at U-864’s Wikipedia page.

Here is also some current footage of the stern of the sunken U-Boat.

Yet, like so many news reports on German U-Boats, experts on the German U-Bootwaffe dispute this story including Harry Cooper, the President of Sharkhunters International, Inc. which publishes the official journal of the German U-Bootwaffe Veterans Association.

Harry is well known as one of the top experts on U-Boats in the world and during his twenty-seven years as President of Sharkhunters, he came to know almost all surviving U-Boat officers including the leading ace, Otto Kretschmer, with whom Harry maintained a close friendship for many years.

While unable to reveal his sources, Harry strongly believes there is secret cargo aboard U-864 which was not listed on the cargo manifest. In spite of statements by the Norwegian government insisting there is no evidence of uranium oxide aboard, Harry questions the accuracy of those statements.

U-864 was a Type IX-D2 U-Boat, which were specifically designed to carry cargo. This was the largest type of U-Boat built by the Kriegsmarine in World War Two.

Harry informed me in an email this week that any U-Boats which carried uranium, and several of them did, listed the uranium on the cargo manifest as “queksilber,” which translates from German as “quicksilver,” which is another name for mercury.

Additionally, based on information given him by sources he knows to be completely reliable, Harry states there may be a wealth of scientific papers aboard U-864, including ones which indicate the Germans had created a fissionable nuclear reactor.

Next week I will devote a blog post to U-234, which surrendered at the end of the war as ordered by U-Boat Command. Along with many items of interest, U-234 carried a large quantity of uranium oxide and a dismantled Me-262 jet aircraft. Escorted by several U.S. Navy ships, the U-Boat put into Portsmouth, NH. The German crew was mistreated so badly that this incident is one of the worst documented violations of the Geneva Convention to be committed by the United States in World War Two.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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